A Comparison of Mahalia Jackson and Marvin Sapp

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson was a prevalent gospel artist between the late 1920s and 1960s. Her music style of gospel music had an element of blues combined with full-throated tones and note-bending (Ankeny). She also had some elements of jazz incorporated into her musical style which was heavily criticized by church elders during the time of her popularity. Mahalia Jackson was hailed as the greatest gospel singer of all time for her musical strides in gospel (Ankeny).

Marvin Sapp

Marvin Sapp is a contemporary gospel artist that began making his debut in the 1990s. Sapp’s music style often includes a choir in which directs while also singing. Some of his most popular songs include “Best in Me” and “Never Would’ve Made It.” These songs arose during times of grief in which Marvin lost his wife, biological father, and spiritual father.

Musical Style Investigation of Jackson & Sapp

Based on the songs of “Precious Lord Take My Hand” , “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, and “I Can Put My Trust In Jesus” Jackson’s singing style and musical composition is in a sense drastically different from Sapp’s style. The similarity between Jackson and Sapp is the heavy use of the piano to harmonize with their vocals. However, their singing styles and use of other forms of musical elements are different.

Jackson as opposed to Sapp, is the only person singing when she is performing gospel music. Her voice and the piano are the only instruments that are being used. She has a few runs in her songs and her voice appears to be more subtle and calm than dominate. She also has a sense of jazz and blues elements in her singing style and often takes short breaths in between notes.


Based on the songs of “Never Would Have Made It”, “Best In Me”, and “Praise Him in Advance”, Marvin Sapp has different music elements from Jackson. The first noticable element is his use of a choir. Sapp has several voices as instruments along with a piano, while Jackson is the only singer. Sapp also uses a lot of runs and holds his notes as well as taking longer breaths. Sapp also on the contrary to Jackson, has more of a contemporary r&b sound to his gospel music.

In conclusion, both artist have very constrasting music styles but have one component that is similar across the genre as a whole, the use of a piano. Both artists were and are highly regarded and have made strides within the gospel community.

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